Life Science
Incubator Leiden

iGEM Leiden 2023: PHAse Out microplastics from our diet

Did you know that, on a daily basis, we unknowingly consume 5 grams of microplastics? It doesn’t come as a surprise that us humans aren’t meant to be consuming these microplastics. That’s why the 2023 iGEM Leiden team, PHAse Out, is dedicatedly working on a solution to combat these microplastics from our diet.

The detrimental effects of microplastics

Consuming microplastics doesn’t sound good to most people. However, a significant portion of the population remains unaware of the actual health ramifications associated with the ingestion of microplastics. 

In essence, when we ingest microplastics, we are also ingesting a cocktail of chemicals such as heavy metals, polychlorinated biphenyls (a toxic compound), and pesticides. Consuming these microplastics can potentially result in detrimental health effects.

iGEM Leiden is dedicated to PHAse Out plastic

The iGEM Leiden 2023 team consists of 13 enthusiastic students from University of Leiden. Coming from various disciplines, the team strives to PHAse Out plastic. With the help of synthetic biology and the biodegradable plastic ‘PHA’, the team has a clear mission: removing all microplastics from our diet. 

Biodegradable plastic, PHA, is naturally occurring in bacteria and serves as a form of energy storage, similar to the human body’s storage of excess energy in fat cells. Notably, PHA can be biologically decomposed by bacteria, rendering it environmentally friendly. The incorporation of PHA in agricultural practices holds particular promise as it ensures the absence of microplastics available for plant absorption. This makes it a compelling solution for applications within the agricultural sector.

How can you contribute?

Teams that participate in the global iGEM competition are responsible for their own finances. To secure their participation in this competition and to procure essential laboratory materials, the iGEM Leiden team requires €9800. Will you help them achieve their goal of removing microplastics from our diet and win the 2023 iGEM competition?  

Prince’s Day: what it means for business owners

The third Tuesday of September was that time again! On Prince’s Day, the Cabinet announced plans for next year. This day has positive and negative consequences for everyone in the Netherlands, including entrepreneurs. That is a subject close to our hearts. We list some of those consequences for you, following the plans, read by King Willem-Alexander, for 2024.

Untaxed compensation lower for your staff

As an employer, you may give certain perks to your employees tax-free, via the working expenses scheme. Consider, for example, Christmas hampers or sports season tickets. The total amount must then stay under your so-called free space, which is calculated based on the payroll of all your employees combined. In 2023, this free space had been increased, but it is now being reduced to 1.92% up to a wage bill of €400,000. That means: you have fewer opportunities to give tax-free perks to your staff, namely €7,680.

Sustainable business grants

Investment in climate by both government and business remains necessary. Consequently, there are several subsidy schemes for sustainable business. Busy innovating? The budget of the innovation scheme (Wet Bevordering Speur – en Ontwikkelingswerk) will be increased incidentally and structurally! A scheme giving entrepreneurs a leg up on researching new innovations! In addition, the budget of the Investment Subsidy for Renewable Energy and Energy Saving (ISDE), will be increased by €1.38 billion. This grant is intended for residential or commercial property preservation. New in 2024 is that this subsidy may also be used for insulation measures.

Minimum hourly wage

Employers are required to pay the minimum wage by the hour starting in 2024. Now using the minimum monthly wage, we calculate the hourly wage and multiply it by the number of hours a person works. The disadvantage is that this would create differences between industries in which a full work week consists of 40 hours and industries in which a full work week consists of 36 hours. As a result, you may have rising costs as an employer, in addition to the inflation adjustment.

Of course, there are just some of the changes you will face as a business owner. Be sure to check out the central government website to see the full list of decisions announced on Prince’s Day! Need help setting up your startup? Then click on the link below to discover our programs or contact PLNT without obligation!

Being an entrepreneur while studying, our tips!

Your college years are a challenge on their own, but what if you start your own business during studies? It may sound like mission impossible, but it doesn’t have to be like that. More and more students go into entrepreneurship whilst still working on their studies. Because: why not? But what should you keep in mind? We have summed up some practical tips!

The power of time management

As a student-entrepreneur you have to be able to schedule your time right. You will have to balance studies, work and personal life, so you don’t get overwhelmed by responsibility. Use planning tools like Simplicate, Gripp or Monday. Also: don’t underestimate the power of the good old to-do-list!

Workshops & (startup) programs

Do you go to Leiden University and have a greate idea or a passion for being an entrepreneur? You can come to Luris: Knowledge Exchange Office of Leiden Unitversity and the Leiden University Medical Centre. Luris brengt de ondernemende student samen met een breed netwerk van ondernemers en professionele ondersteuners en heeft toegang tot financieringsinstrumenten die speciaal voor deze reden zijn ontwikkeld.

Next to that, at PLNT – the centre for innovation & entrepreneurship – you can join different programs and workshops during your startup-journey. You can boost your entrepreneur-skills by joining (free!) workshops, organised bij PLNT Students. Is your idea solid as a rock? Then you can join program Startup Play, in which you create a business case in three months, whilst learning everything about your target audience. Is your (technological or scientificly based) startup ready to come to market? Than our Venture Academy is perfect for you!

Work together

As an entrepreneur you don’t have to do everything by yourself. Find fellow students or friends with the same interests and start a team. Working together with others can give you new perspectives and skills that you may not have created by yourself. That doesn’t mean you’re co-owners, you can also just motivate eachother.


Do you want to know more about entrepreneurship during your studies and the possibility’s that PLNT has to offer? please contact PLNT without obligation!

The catalyst that can turn your startup into a reality

In the dynamic landscape of the healthcare industry, life science startups emerge at the forefront of innovation. The sector is booming, with an increasing number of startups launching every year.  At unlock_, we are dedicated to igniting the spark of inspiration among new life science startups. This month, we put the spotlight on a distinguished graduate from our 2022 Incubation Program: Hospital Hero.

What does Hospital Hero do?

Hospital Hero is on a mission to make hospital visits less intimidating for children and parents alike, with their ingenious Hospital Hero app. By transforming hospital experiences into a playful adventure, they’re turning every child into a confident and well-prepared Hospital Hero.

How Hospital Hero unlocked their startup

Charlotte Poot shares her experience about the unlock_ Incubation Program on behalf of Stichting Hospital Hero:

“Participating in the unlock_ Incubation Program has been a true journey that has propelled us forward in a way we had never envisioned. From the very beginning, the program has provided us with the necessary knowledge in business development, market research, intellectual property and entrepreneurship, laying the foundation for a successful business.

The program’s multi-faceted approach, which included masterclasses, tailored advice, mentoring, as well as collaborative sharing of challenges and achievements with fellow startups, has been instrumental in shaping our journey towards success. Being part of this program, alongside other startups has been a remarkable experience. Sharing our challenges and accomplishments created a dynamic ecosystem of support and learning.

Can you tell a little more about the master classes? 

“The masterclasses served as a rich source of knowledge and profound insights. Through interesting discussions with well-established entrepreneurs, they delved deeply into the complexities of entrepreneurship, equipping us with indispensable tools and strategies to navigate the challenging startup landscape.”

Why did you choose unlock_ Incubation? What makes this program different from others?

“What truly sets this program apart from other programs is the personalized advice and tailored mentoring we received. The mentoring was tailored to our specific needs and was instrumental in identifying and tackling our blind spots. Their unwavering support, constructive feedback, and willingness to invest their time and expertise in our venture were invaluable. It felt like having a dedicated team of advisors who were genuinely committed to our success.

Our most significant milestone during the program was spinning out from the university. The program provided us with the resources and knowledge necessary to make this leap with confidence. Today, we stand as an independent entity with a clear vision and a solid business plan.

Our participation in the Unlock_incubation program has been a transformative experience and has helped us to create a robust foundation upon which Stichting Hospital Hero now stands. If you have a startup dream, this program is the catalyst that can turn it into a reality.”

Are you ready to unlock_ your startup journey?

unlock_ is where Life Science and Health entrepreneurs, startups and scale-ups in the Netherlands crack open global health problems. At the Leiden Bio Science Park, we provide the startup support, structure, programs, network and the instruments you need to turn an idea into a solution. How can we help you?

LBSP Startup Booster

Welcome to the LBSP Startup Booster!

The Leiden Bio Science Park (LBSP) has launched the Startup Booster program to promote innovation and collaboration. This initiative seeks to establish LBSP as a hub for innovative projects by bringing entrepreneurs and researchers together. As a result, startups can benefit from improved visibility, access to talent, entry into new markets, and securing investments. The LBSP is committed to leveraging the power of collaboration and innovative technologies to maintain its position as a leading center for life sciences innovation.

We are thrilled to have partnered with nine outstanding companies, check them all out below!

Three unlock_ Incubator startups secure NWO Take off 2 Grant

In a remarkable testament to the thriving Leiden Bio Science Park ecosystem, three startups from the unlock_ Incubation program community have received the NWO Take off 2 grant. Rapidemic, EXIT071, and Sencilia stand among the 10 recipients of this grant, solidifying their positions as pioneers in their respective fields.

An orange and grey logo with the word Rapidemic on it as part of the unlock_ community.

Rapidemic is developing a molecular point-of-care test for fast and accurate diagnosis of sexually transmitted infections.

EXIT071 is developing pioneering technology for the analysis of novel biomarkers exosomes. The grant will be used for further development and validation of their innovative technology for exosome isolation and biomarker analysis!

EXIT071 logo with the words Exosomes isolation tool as part of the unlock_ community.

Sencilia is working with nature-inspired flow sensing technology, Sencilia aim to improve patient safety as flow rate errors can be detected accurately and instantly. The grant assists with accelerating the development and validation of their unique IV infusion monitoring flow sensors to improve neonatal and pediatric patient safety in intensive care.

At unlock_, we are immensely proud to have these startups take part in our Incubation program. Congratulations to the teams behind Rapidemic, EXIT071, Sencilia, and all the inspiring entrepreneurs who continue to drive the frontiers of science and innovation. Together, we are unlocking a healthier future for humanity!

About the NWO Take off 2 Grant:

The NWO Take off 2 grant is awarded to founders of start-up companies associated with Dutch universities, recognized NWO research institutes, TO2 institutions, and Dutch universities of applied sciences. This program empowers these entrepreneurs by providing loan applications of up to 250,000 euros.

Winners Philips Innovation Awards 2023 are set to make the world a better place

Listening and learning from plants

After eight pitches in the Innovator and Rough Diamond categories, the jury retreated to reach a conclusion. They judged the pitches based on the innovative nature, the feasibility of execution and the team behind the idea. “It took some tough debates and passionate exchanges of the jury, but we came to a conclusion,” said CEO of Philips and chair of the jury, Roy Jakobs. Plense Technologies, founded as a spin-off of Delft University of Technology, won the Rough Diamond Award and 10,000 euros. Through ultrasound, the young entrepreneurs want to “listen and learn” from the needs of plants to make plant cultivation more efficient and effective.

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Disrupting the heparin market

One in three patients in the hospital need to be treated with heparin to prevent blood clotting. One billion pigs are needed annually to meet this global need. To reduce dependence on animals, ExCulture has developed a fermentation method that is scalable over the long term. Their business case earned them the Innovator Award and 50,000 euros to further develop their idea. “This amount will help us to further characterize and validate our product and get one step closer to market introduction,” said winners Aisling Foley and Ilaria Poledri.


Wide range of game-changing ideas

From more sustainable space travel, to using fungi to replace synthetic textile dyes, to extracting sustainable energy from the horizontal movement of waves, the diversity of ideas from the entrepreneurs participating shows how students in the Netherlands want to contribute to making society more sustainable. “I am pleased to see that the theme of sustainability is so outspoken in this edition of the awards,” said Roy Jakobs. “Sustainable and disruptive thinking is what we need to make the world a better place.”

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Largest student entrepreneurship awards in The Netherlands

The Philips Innovation Awards is the largest student entrepreneurship awards in the Netherlands, organized by and for students. Over a period of four months, the students develop their idea from a one-pager to a business plan. Students participating receive expert coaching, access to a large network of investors and personal training guidance.


This news item is a copy of the article previously published by the Philips Innovation Award on May 17, 2023.

Applications now open for the Venture Academy

Within a period of 4 months, startups participating in the Venture Academy work on validating their business case, building a healthy team and raising funding. During the program, they are supported by experienced trainers, mentors and coaches. The program is an initiative of PLNT Leiden and the Life Science Incubator unlock_, both incubators for startups. Startups can register for the program until August 4 at the latest.

Everything a startup needs to get off to a flying start is covered in the Venture Academy. In addition, the companies receive coaching and mentoring by sector specialists who support them throughout the program. After completing the fully subsidized program, the young companies are ready to raise their first round of funding.

Specialised Track

Companies that focus on the field of Life Sciences and Health participate in the ‘Special Track’. Here, unlock_, a partner of PLNT, mentors the startups. unlock_ also serves as an incubator for startups, but is specialized in the Life Sciences and Health sector. This sector requires more in-depth knowledge about technical and legal matters such as patent applications.


Startup companies can register for an intake interview directly through this link. After this introductory interview, there is an opportunity to apply for a spot in the Venture Academy. The deadline for registration is Friday, August 4, 2023. The kick-off of the program will take place on Friday, September 8. For more information, the full brochure is available below.

Applications now open for the Venture Academy

Why a Strong Business Proposition is Key to Success for Startups

Life science startups are at the forefront of innovation in the healthcare industry. The sector is booming, with an increasing number of startups launching every year. (1) However, despite the abundance of talent and resources available, many startups fail to make it past the early stages. One of the most important factors, next to the innovativeness and cost effectiveness of the intended product contributing to this, is the lack of a strong business proposition.

In this blog, we’ll explore why having a strong business proposition is crucial for startups, and what steps can be taken to develop one.

What is a business proposition?

A business proposition, also known as a value proposition, is a statement that describes the unique benefits that a product or service offers to its customers. It explains what sets a particular product or service apart from its competitors and why customers should choose it over other options. A business proposition typically includes the following elements:

  • A clear description of the product or service being offered
  • A statement of the target market or customer segment
  • A description of the unique benefits or value that the product or service provides
  • A statement of the competitive advantage or USP (unique selling proposition) of the product or service

Why is a strong business proposition important for startups?

A strong business proposition is essential for any startup. Here’s why:

1. Attracting investment

One of the biggest challenges facing startups, including life science startups is securing funding to finance their research and development. Investors want to see a clear and compelling business proposition before committing their funds. A strong business proposition can help startups stand out from the crowd and convince investors that their product or service has the potential to succeed in the market.

To help (life science) startups in Leiden find the right investment, initiatives such as Show Me The Money offers the chance for startups to speed date with different investors and investment funds such as Innovation Quarter, Thuja Capital, Inkef and LEH.

2. Differentiating from competitors

The startup ecosystem is highly competitive, and startups need to differentiate themselves from their competitors to succeed. A strong business proposition can help startups carve out a unique niche in the market and position themselves as a leader in their field. 

3. Communicating value to customers

Startups need to be able to communicate the value of their products or services to potential customers. More specifically, in the Life Sciences & Health market it can be very hard to even define who your clients are. A clear and concise business proposition can help startups explain how their product or service can benefit customers, and why it is a better option than alternatives on the market.

How to develop a strong business proposition for your startup

Developing a strong business proposition takes time and effort, but it is a critical step in the success of your startup. Here are some tips to help you develop a compelling business proposition:

1. Know your market

To develop a strong business proposition, you need to understand your target market. Who are your customers? What are their needs and pain points? What solutions are currently available, and how does your product or service differ? To help startups answer these questions, we at unlock_ offer a range of tailored entrepreneurial programs. One such program, the Market Access & Reimbursement program helps you to define your market access and reimbursement strategy. 

2. Identify your USP

What makes your product or service unique? What sets it apart from competitors? This could be a unique feature, a lower cost, or a faster delivery time. Whatever it is, make sure it is clear and compelling. 

3. Keep it simple

Your business proposition should be clear, concise, and easy to understand. Avoid using technical jargon or complicated language that could confuse potential customers or investors. 

4. Test it

Once you have developed your business proposition, test it with potential customers or investors. Get feedback on how they perceive your product or service and use this feedback to refine your proposition.

5. Iterate

Your business proposition is not set in stone. As your startup evolves, so too should your proposition. Continuously refine and iterate your proposition as you learn more about your market and your customers.

To summarize

Developing a strong business proposition is critical for the success of any startup. A compelling business proposition can help attract investment, differentiate from competitors, and communicate the value of the product or service to potential customers. 

In addition to having a strong business proposition, startups should also take advantage of the resources available to them. Take Leiden, the Netherlands for example. As the main life science & health ecosystem in the Netherlands, the Leiden Bio Science Park has a strong ecosystem for startups. Resources such as our tailored entrepreneurship programs and support at unlock_, BioPartner Leiden providing startup housing, and networking events designed to help startups succeed are all available for life science entrepreneurs. By leveraging these resources and developing a compelling business proposition, startups can navigate the challenges of the industry and emerge as leaders in their field. 

Exploration of investment fund for MedTech startups in Leiden region launched

Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship PLNT Leiden, Leiden Bio Science Park, the LEH and Life Science incubator unlock_ are exploring the need for an incubation program for medtech startups in the Leiden region. To this end, they have signed a letter of intent with accelerator

In the coming months, the parties will investigate the feasibility of an incubation/acceleration program for startups in the field of medtech, medical devices and e-health. At the same time, they are also looking at how the Seed Fund can invest in the Leiden startups.

Program and fund prepare startups for further growth and investment

The incubators of knowledge institutions annually produce hundreds of new startups that are of great value and impact on our economy and society. However, some of these startups do not survive, despite a promising startup phase. They struggle to raise investments in the early stages of technological invention. The Leiden parties hope that through this (international) collaboration with imec.istart these startups can be helped to get through this early phase and grow further.

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Strategic collaboration

PLNT, Leiden Bio Science Park Foundation, the LEH and unlock_ are seeking strategic cooperation with imec and imec.istart. The latter Belgian Research & Development hub has existed for more than 35 years and is known worldwide for innovations in nano and digital technology. Earlier this year, the company signed an agreement with Radboud University, Radboud UMC and University of Twente for imec.start: a new acceleration program in which tech startups can receive pre-seed funding and coaching. In the coming months, the Leiden parties will work with imec to further develop the plans to launch during 2023.


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